Harvester Machine Interface

reducing cognitive work load

Interaction Design

Umeå Institute of Design

Year / Duration

2009 / 8 weeks

In collaboration with

Komatsu Forest and Ideo


This project proposes a new way of interaction between the Forestry Harvesting Machine Valmet 941.1 and the operator. The final proposal is based on the research done concerning the machine's functionality as well as the operator human aspects. Specifically, the final project aims at showing how the visualization and arrangement of the information required for handling the machine can reduce the stress load for the operator and make controlling the machine easier.


This video shows how the final proposal would work in real time, and explains the four different levels of information that were proposed to reduce to on the interface.


The harvester machine

The harvester machine on matter is the Valmet 941.1,
which utilizes the MaxiXplorer software as an interface between the operator and the system. For operating specialized commercial vehicles it is necessary to combine driving and maneuvering with some other task such as forestry work.

The operator is also responsible for handling an increasing the amount of information while doing the tasks previous mentioned. Doing different tasks at the same time demand a high cognitive work load and extensive training is often required to master the complex modes of interaction.


User studies / Contextual Inquiries

A very important part of the project was the analysis of the user observations and interviews to better understand how the operator behaves while working with the machine and how he manages and process the information. The results of this stage led us to define the areas to work with on this project.

Generating ideas and brainstorming

The brainstorming is a very useful tool for generating ideas. We had several brainstorming sessions with the objective of finding design opportunities based on the previous research, and later for generating concepts about a specific need to solve.

Analysis of the information

The main focus of this concept was to find a way to improve visualization of the information. The two main factors considered for prioritizing and grouping the information were: 

1. Frequency of use

2. Importance for the system

Sketching ideas

First proposals about how to visualize the information. 

Processing and Identifying the values graphically with icons is easier than doing it either with numbers or words.

Technologies proposed

>Head-up display

The HUD is used for displaying the information at the same viewpoint the operator uses while working.

>Eye-tracking system

Using eye-tracking technology the system knows where the operator is looking and presents the relevant information accordingly. This helps to reduce visual overload and stress.

Main information / Group 1

This group of information contains all the main information necessary for executing the tasks of logging the trees This group is the only one that is visible all the time while doing the main tasks of cutting and logging the trees. 

The information is shown in the same visual field of the operator (HUD). This means that he does not have to look in two different places.

Information about the status of the machine / Group 2

The new proposed dashboard includes the eye tracker for the eyes tracking system as well as the status indicators of the machine. 

Such indicators as fuel gauge, temperature gauge, oil gauge and engine temperature gauge are located here.

Frequent Functions and Settings Menu Group Three and Four

The operator has to press the button for activating the eye-tracking system. Then, he has to look at the area where the menus of information number three and four are placed to make the information visible (button pressed + eye-tracking system+eyes movement).

Check the animation above to better understand how it works.